Interview – The DePatie Melt

The DePatie Melt is a project created by John DePatie, making interesting prog rock soundscapes with an instrumental basis behind them. I checked out their latest song, The Viking Princess And The Troll King, and I really enjoyed it, so I wanted to have a chat with the man behind the music!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a track titled The Viking Princess And The Troll King, which we reviewed. What can you tell us about the song?

I came up with the title while visiting Norway in 2017. I had watched a funny Norwegian film called Troll Hunter and the title just came to me. I was picturing a fairy tale like Beauty And The Beast or something like that.

I didn’t write the music until a vacation in August of 2018. I guess I had it in mind to come up with something that drew from some older influences and I remember wanting to create something that would be a good vehicle for my guitar playing. Once I wrote it, I knew that it was really a special song to me and a few months later, when it came time to name it, I got the idea to bestow the title that I’d come up with on the song.

The Viking Princess And The Troll King is brand new on every platform except YouTube. I released it only as a video back in April of 2019. I got a really great response to the song, and almost immediately regretted that I hadn’t made more of the release. I learned a bit about promotion since then, and decided it was worth it to give it a proper full release. The performance you see in the YouTube is the actual performance of the song. I didn’t record it ahead of time and then play along to it, and the solo in the middle was improvised.

It’s an instrumental song. Why did you decide to go down this route, instead of adding vocals? Are all your tracks instrumental in nature?

This is the sixth track that I’ve released in the last 14 months, the length of time that I’ve been using the name The DePatie Melt. The first three had vocals, and the next three are instrumentals, but most of my songs are actually instrumentals. I’m not a singer, so I write things to showcase my guitar playing. And, I do a lot of work as a sideman so I get to play vocal music quite often.

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

In the beginning of the pandemic I got a lot done, probably more than ever. I had a backlog of old songs and I spent most of every day adding parts to them, working out the forms, and improving my mixing. I made much more progress than during a normal year.

Late into last yea, I needed a change. I shifted gears and rather than work on the recordings of old material, I decided to start preparing a show. I took some of the tracks that I’d worked on and made a playlist of the songs with all the main melody guitars removed. I’ve been thinking that I’ll do a livestream on Reddit or YouTube to try out some of the songs. Now I’m ready for a bunch of new songs in my next live show, and I’ve also got enough ready for a solo show with backing tracks the next time that opportunity arises.

What is the writing and recording process like for you?

I have a few different ways of starting songs. Sometimes when I first pick up a guitar, or when I’m tuning up, I’ll stumble on something that I think can be the seed of a song. I’ll make a quick recording of whatever it is as fast as possible. I don’t worry about the quality of the recording, I just want to get the inspiration of the idea down so that I can come back to it. Then I’ll come back to it at a later time and see if I can turn it into a full song.

I also write when I travel or when I’m vacation. I’ll set a goal for myself, which is usually a song a day, and at the end of my trip I can listen back and have a bunch of new song ideas. Usually I try to get a verse, chorus, bridge, intro and outro, rather than just the basic idea. They always need a lot more work later, but if I can do the writing all at once then I can come back to it later with a bit of perspective and get the arrangement in shape.

I also save my experiments when I’m learning things. I might be trying out a new piece of software or a new guitar pedal, and sometimes I’ll find something I like.

Do you plan to release any more singles in the near future?

I’ve got another song that was also originally released just as a YouTube video. I’m planning to put a remix of that out soon. I’ve got a number of other things that are shaping up too, but not close enough to being done that I have release dates for them. I do really like the single format, though.

Have you started writing for an EP or an album?

I’ve got a ton of songs written and it’s long past time for me to get a full length album out. Some of the material is probably best served by a full band tracking live, so I’m getting the funding together to do that. In the meantime there may be some other singles, if I think I can do justice to them by myself or with just another one or two musicians.

The track seemed to have a variety of different genres within it. What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

It’s nice to hear you say that! Early on in my development I made a conscious effort to combine a lot of my influences. Now it just happens sometimes.

I have been influenced by a lot of the guitar greats (probably all of them) and also by a lot of the people whose songwriting, band-leading and arranging skills I consider great as well. The list is too long but to name a few- early on Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler were big influences on guitar. Then Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington all made a big impact on me.

One of my most recent playlists has new releases from Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Josh Smith, Scary Goldings and Eric Johnson in it. I’ve been trying to figure out how to market myself to support these releases, which means sometimes it’s necessary to understand how the rest of the world will categorize my music. That isn’t easy for me because I like so much different music and I want to try my hand at making a lot of different styles, and to try mixing styles too. So lately I’ve been listening to a lot of the instrumental guitar artists to see where I fit.

Where are you based? What is the music scene like in your part of the world?

I live in Los Angeles. There’s a staggering amount of talent here. It’s inspirational and intimidating at the same time. Some clubs closed due to the pandemic, but there are still great places to play and it seems like things have mostly picked back up.

Do you have any tour dates lined up? What can people expect from one of your shows and why should people come and see you perform live?

I’m doing three dates in the East Coast of the U.S. in June with Don Randi & Quest. Don is known for his session work with what later became known as the Wrecking Crew. We’ll be doing some of the songs from that legacy from artists like Linda Rondstadt, Jackson 5, Elvis, and the Beach Boys to name a few, in addition to some jazz and original material from Don’s history. And, probably a song or two from Acoustimania, a CD of originals that we put out a few years ago.

I’m just getting organized to put together a follow-up to that trip, for my own material, for later this summer. I’ll do something on the east coast, something on the west coast and it’s likely that I’ll perform in Norway before the year is through as well.

I have such a great time on stage and there’s no show without a crowd… so please, please, please come to my show, lol. I normally do a bunch of my material, but I also throw in a few well known covers to keep people engaged. One thing that just happens on it’s own is really fun for me. Since I don’t sing, I play instrumental versions of songs with the guitar playing the melodies. People recognize the songs and they’ll sing along. It’s really wild when a huge crowd starts singing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit or Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke along with my guitar.

Any last words for the fans?

Thanks for listening, thanks for being there, thanks for liking the posts, thanks for adding my songs to your playlists, thanks for everything else you do!